2018 was a phenomenal year for humans as well as for science. This year we started by launching a Tesla Roadster into space and ended by successfully testing the first spacecraft designed by Virgin Galactic to carry passengers into space! Unfortunately I cannot list each one of them but here are some of the most amazing achievements of science in this year –
Launch of Falcon Heavy by SpaceX!
SpaceX successfully launched its most powerful rocket that is Falcon Heavy on 6th February 2018. It can lift twice as much as the weight that can be lifted by Delta IV Heavy which was the highest till Falcon Heavy’s launch! Falcon Heavy is a partially reusable launch vehicle which gained popularity by launching Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster into space! The Tesla Roadster had a mannequin wearing SpaceX’s spacesuit in it with a note saying “DON’T PANIC!” on it’s dashboard! The car and the astronaut are still sailing in outer space and, as confirmed by SpaceX, have sailed past Mars. This launch will definitely help SpaceX to prepare for future manned missions to moon as well as to Mars.
A new kind of aurora was discovered!
STEVE or Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement is an amazing purple light show occuring at places where an aurora shouldn’t. Till 2018 STEVE was primarily studied by amateur astronomer and photographers but in 2018 it caught scientist’s attention. Scientists compared Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis(also called as northern and southern lighs) with STEVE and found out that STEVE was governed by a different mechanism than those auroras, so technically STEVE isn’t even an aurora. STEVE is also referred as a type of “skyglow” which is probably caused by ripping off electrons from an atom to create a stream of charged particles. All we know is that STEVE is definitely not an aurora but might be some how connected to one.
A 20km wide lake filled with liquid water suspected on Mars’ Polar Caps!
Many of our landers and rovers have suspected water on Mars in past but due to it’s thin atmosphere it is quite impossible to find liquid water on its surface but after 3 years of research and findings, Italian scientists in 2018 found traces of liquid water buried beneath the ice on the planet’s polar caps. This discovery is definitely an important one but technically there is only a high possibility of finding liquid water there and nothing is completely confirmed. There even is a possibility of finding microorganisms like bacterias in this buried lake just like one can find in Antarctica! This even contributes to the possibility of life on Mars in past which was eventually wiped out. For now there is no way to go deep under Mars’ polar caps to study this new feature but we can expect scientists to aim for that area soon.
Scientists found a ghost particle and traced its origin for the first time!
Neutrinos, often dubbed as “Ghost Particles”, are particles travelling at a high speed with a very little mass. These particles are leptons and have always confused scientists because of their weird nature that is most of the times they don’t interact with the normal matter. This year scientists detected one of those in Antarctica using the IceCube neutrino observatory and they also were able to detect it’s origin for the first time. Neutrinos are like messenger of Universe which pass through anything unchanged and this time this helped scientists to detect it’s origin, a blazar whose one ionised jet stream is directly pointing towards us. Blazar is a galaxy with a supermassive black hole at it’s centre, and the recent one discovered is about 4 billion light years away from Earth. Once better understood, Neutrinos definitely can help us in better understanding our own Universe and probably it’s origin.
Parker Solar Probe launched and reached the closest anyone has to the Sun!
Parker Solar probe which was launched on August 12 to unwrap some of the most mysterious behaviour of Sun and Solar winds recently completed its first solar flyby and took some amazing pictures. This probe will tell us more about the solar winds, their origin and their life. It will also try to find an explanation for the question, why is Sun’s corona hotter than it’s surface? This probe is packed with high quality protection that will protect it from the extremely hot environment it has entered in. The front shield is painted with a whiter than white paint to reflect as much heat as it can and to protect the main body of the probe. This mission is one of a kind and will definitely help us to understand our Sun and at the end our Solar System even better.
JAXA deploys 2 robotic explorers on asteroid Ryugu!
JAXA or the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency launched Hayabusa 2 in the year 2014 and it reached its destination that is asteroid Ryugu this year. It will deploy two small robotic rovers named as rover 1A and rover 1B to study the asteroid’s surface, geography, temperature etc by taking images of the asteroid. It contains multiple scientific payloads to study the Carbonaceous asteroid which contains organic molecules. It will collect a sample from the asteroid and head back towards Earth in 2019 and is expected to reach back by 2020.
Mars InSight Lander!
InSight or Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport Lander was launched as well as it reached Mars in 2018. Unlike other recent missions, InSight is not a rover but a lander which means that it can complete its goals while staying intact at one place on Mars. It contains a lot of diverse scientists equipments to study about the surface and interior of the Mars more. It would help us to better understand the geology of interior planets of the solar system. It will also dig inside the Mars’ surface and will also detect Mars quakes for the first time! This lander will play an important role for future Mars missions by studying Mars’ interior for the first time.
Chinese scientists successfully cloned monkeys!
Chinese scientists recently cloned monkeys using the same technique that was used to clone “Dolly” the sheep around 20 years ago. They named these 2 identical macaques as Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua. By this we now know that cloning primates is extremely difficult but definitely not impossible. They achieved this after a lot of attempts and till now the macaques are normal and are feeding on milk. Scientists don’t plan to clone humans in anyway right now but are studying the diseases and their controls which can be achieved by cloning.
Space Directive 1!
According to Donald Trump’s new Space Directive-1, NASA announced that the next moon landing will be done by private companies! NASA announced 9 private companies that are Lockheed Martin, Astrobotic, Moon Express, Masten Space Systems, Deep Space Systems, Draper, Firefly Aerospace, Intuitive Machines, and Orbit Beyond which will compete to develop the next moon mission. This mission will not focus on landing humans to moon but would rather focus to get rovers and small scientific equipments to moon for research purposes and also to prepare for the next manned landing on moon. They are expected to present their models by 2019-20 so we can expect another moon mission soon.
The Kilogram was redefined!
After around 129 years, a Kilogram was redefined by fixing the value of Planck’s constant and later on Avagadro’s Number or constant, charge of an electron as well as the Boltzmann’s constant! Till now a Kilogram was defined as the weight of a platinum-iridium cylinder called Le Grand K which is stored in a climate controlled vault in a basement of Paris with its identical duplicates, but for some reasons is losing its mass. They did not only changed kilogram but also changed Ampere, Mole as well as Kelvin and fixed their values! This definitely wouldn’t effect a normal person’s life but will have a slight effect in small measurements made by scientists.
OSIRIS-REx reached asteroid Bennu!
OSIRIS-REx or the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer reached its destination Asteroid Bennu this year and has already sent back a lot of useful information. It will map and scan the asteroid for next few years and then will collect a small amount of sample, without landing, to bring back to Earth! The asteroid is a Carbonaceous one and is a possible future threat to Earthlings. With the findings of OSIRIS-REx we might be able to prevent the asteroid’s collision with Earth(which is only a possibility) and we might find organic molecules that opens up the mystery of life.
Voyager-2 reaches Interstellar Space!
On 10th December, NASA announced that after 4 decades Voyager 2 has officially left our solar system and has reached the interstellar space. Voyager 2 is the second spacecraft which has left our solar system, first being the Voyager 1. Voyager 2’s sensors and equipments are still in working conditions and that can help us to explore the interstellar medium. These spacecrafts may even someday help us in discovering the Oort’s cloud so we can understand the origin of comets.
Virgin Galactic successfully tested the first spacecraft designed to carry humans in space!
Virgin Galactic successfully tested it’s supersonic plane VSS Unity in December reaching and passing the mark set by US govt beyond which space begins. It was launched on top of a plane and after reaching a particular height the pilots took off from the mother plane and drove the VSS Unity towards space at approximately 3 times the speed of sound! This shows that soon we will be able to see space from our own eyes and as tourists. Virgin Galactic is already getting ready to provide flight to space to the tourists who are willing to pay for it.
2018 has been a marvelous year for us and 2019 will definitely be a better one. This year we accomplished some of the most difficult tasks of 21st century and we will keep on achieving more. Curiosity is the major reason behind our success as a complete civilization, curiosity is a feeling that every human wants to fulfill. At the end, curiosity is what keeps us alive. Just let that flame of curiosity burn inside you the next year as well. Happy New Year!!